A viral video posted to social media appears to show a Nashville airport police officer threatening to arrest stranded Southwest Airlines passengers for trespassing if they did not leave the secured section of the airport.
Southwest Airlines personnel asked for an officer to escort passengers from the C concourse to the pre-security ticket counter the night of Dec. 25, according to a statement released by the Nashville International Airport.
The video, which was posted by 20-year-old Nashville resident Amani Robinson, captured part of the interaction between the officer and several people who were lined up at a desk outside a gate.
"If you have no ticket, you don't need to be on the secured side," the officer said in the video.
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"But we have tickets," someone in the group said.
"Your tickets just got canceled," the officer replied.
The video also shows Shelley Morrison, Robinson's mother, asking the officer to clarify why they would be arrested for trespassing.
"If you don't have a valid ticket and you're on the secured side and you refuse to leave, you'll be arrested," the officer said. "Right now, Southwest is calling us because you guys are congregating right here, but they're trying to close that gate."
Morrison explained to the officer their flight had only been delayed, not canceled, based on text message alerts they received from Southwest Airlines. Before the officers approached, she said they spoke to an agent at a gate who directed them to the service desk, where two workers were trying to help a long line of people.
They waited in line for nearly an hour before one of the workers announced over the intercom that she was leaving and that she was calling security. Nobody told the people gathered they had to leave if they had a canceled ticket, according to Morrison.
Robinson began filming once two officers approached and began engaging the line of people.
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Robinson's initial video garnered nearly 800,000 views on TikTok as of Wednesday night.
A second video, which racked up over 207,000 TikTok views Wednesday, shows the officer looking at Morrison and her family's tickets alongside another officer. Morrison said she was traveling with Robinson and her two younger daughters to visit family in Ohio.
In the video, Morrison asked if it was customary for police to stop and check tickets. The officer said he re-engaged Morrison because she was the only one from the original line who then joined another line and did not leave the secured side. Robinson told The Tennessean that was not true, and that others from the first line had also moved to the second line.
"You chose to interact with me. I answered all your questions," the officer said. "Legally speaking, you were advised to leave the secured side."
"If I had a canceled ticket," Morrison argued.
After the officer looked at Robinson's tickets with a gate agent and determined they were canceled, the officer told her once again to leave the secured side.
"That is absolutely inappropriate for, on Christmas night, people to be asking questions and you to threaten to arrest them for trespassing simply for standing in line," Morrison said in the video. "It's on video, sir."
"I understand," the officer replied. "You're on video, too."
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As Robinson and Morrison retold their story Wednesday night, they emphasized that they were not yelling or disrespectful to the officers or Southwest Airlines workers. Robinson also added that the officer appeared to follow them as they left the airport. She took out her phone to record again and confronted him, and he denied following them and walked in another direction. She said he continued to watch her and her family as they gathered their things and left.
The airport released a statement Wednesday afternoon in the wake of the videos.
"The Department of Public Safety at Nashville International Airport works to ensure the safety of all passengers throughout the airport," the airport said. "With the high number of flights impacted at BNA on Sunday evening, travelers were asked to visit the pre-security ticketing counters for help to rebook flights. Southwest Airlines personnel contacted the Airport Communications Center asking that a police officer be dispatched to C-Concourse, Gate C-7/9, to escort passengers to the pre-security ticketing counters. We understand and appreciate the frustrations travelers may have, and we are working to provide the best passenger experience for all."
USA TODAY reached out to Southwest for comment and was directed to police.
An airport spokesperson declined to answer questions about the officer's identity, if the officer faced any disciplinary action after the encounter or what law he appeared to cite as he spoke to the travelers.
Morrison said she tried to reach the airport to file a complaint on Wednesday but was unable to reach anyone. She said she plans to file a complaint in writing.
"We're not here to destroy someone's life or destroy their career or suggest that the airport or even Southwest is some horrible company or anything," Morrison said. "I just want there to be proper redress for that behavior and be confident that this will not happen again to our family or any other family."
Contributing: Nathan Diller, USA TODAY
This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Nashville airport police threaten to arrest stranded Southwest flyers
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